Remarks from Daniel Schoonmaker, Director of West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum, at Triple Bottom Line Bash on November 5.
Part 1: State of WMSBF (Below)
My name is Daniel Schoonmaker and it is my pleasure to serve as director of West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum.
I’d like to again thank our sponsors, board of directors and everyone here to today for making this event such a great success, and to Chris Laporte and Odom Reusable Building Materials for creating our awards this year. To Dave Dyer and Chris Huntoon for our Green Family Feud game.
To our nominating committee: George Heartwell, Bill Stough, Gabe Wing, Su Paauwe, Jennifer Wammack and Carol Parsaca. I’d especially like to recognize program manager Angela Miller for making this event look easy, and to our planning committee: Sarah Herbst, Steve Assarian, Wendy Ogilvie, Chris Huntoon, Tera Fowler and chair Carol Parsaca.
Carol is not able to be here today due to the arrival of her twin boys. She is doing quite well.
I’d also like to honor Su Paauwe, our 2015 President’s Award winner, who was recognized at our annual meeting back in June, and our Guest of Honor this evening, Mr. Dick Hanson. Twenty-one years ago Mr. Hanson donated a substantial sum to Bill Stough of Sustainable Research Group and West Michigan Environmental Action Council to develop the framework for what would become West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum. Without him this organization would not exist. A round of applause.
This year the forum is starting realize the vision that its board of directors presented when it gambled its savings on an investment in its first full time employee two years ago. Since that time our membership has grown by 50 percent and our revenue has nearly tripled. We’ve doubled our average event attendance. There is a positive buzz.
We were recognized in the Mayor’s most recent State of the City address. We were on the front page of the Grand Rapids Press twice…and though that doesn’t seem to mean much anymore, I used to be a paperboy so I still think it’s cool.
We’ve also played a small role in getting those involved in our work recognized, be that a profile in the Grand Rapids Business Journal for Kristen Wieland, or awards from our environmental partners for Carol Parsaca and Autumn Sands, who were recognized by Michigan League of Conservation Voters and West Michigan Environmental Action Council, respectively.
Our flagship education program will deliver more than 30 hours of professional education and networking, that is the equivalent of bringing a four-day conference to the local market…for as little as $125 per person.
Our Waste Characterization and Valuation Project brought together competitors and natural enemies in the solid waste field to define the economic and environmental benefits of waste diversion in Michigan, and Kent and Muskegon counties.
We launched a green labs pilot in partnership with the Department of Environmental Quality and the national International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories, working to address a use that consumes up to six times as much energy as typical office buildings.
We’ve invested in a sustainable food systems initiative to help our member businesses understand their potential opportunities and impacts in local agriculture. Our first deliverable: a white paper on LEED credits for on-site agriculture.
This year, we hope to spread our mission to new audiences through the launch of a Sustainable Business Leadership Academy designed to seed sustainability programs where none currently exist, and through an exploratory committee in partnership with our peers across the state for the development a collaborative Michigan Sustainable Business Forum.
We’ll be creating new resources to promote recycling and composting in West Michigan through our solid waste task force, and investing in partnerships to increase our impact in food systems, energy efficiency and circular design.
We’re also going to be continuing the work we began last year through our Climate Resiliency Framework Initiative. We’ve received a Great Lakes Integrated Science Assessment grant to work with climate researchers at University of Michigan, and our partners Sustainable Research Group, former DEQ director Steve Chester, and board volunteer Sara Meyer, to develop a toolkit for climate adaptation for local organizations. To do this we will work with four organizations that we feel together represent the local economy: Perrigo, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Spectrum Health, and Barfly.
Through projects like this, and our general funds, we’re able to support local students through scholarships and interns. We hired students from Aquinas, GVSU, KCAD and Calvin College this year. A full $29,000.